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Possessed by God

By Sanchez, Patricia Datchuck | National Catholic Reporter, July 23, 2010 | Go to article overview

Possessed by God


Sanchez, Patricia Datchuck, National Catholic Reporter


AUG. 1, 2010, EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Patricia Datchuck Sanchez

Eccl 1:2, 2:21-23; Ps 90; Col 3:1-5m, 9-11; Lk 12:13-21

When Norwegian playwright Henrick Ibsen (1828-1906) was a young child, his family enjoyed a comfortable way of life financed by his father's great success in the timber shipping industry. Within a few years, however, his family's financial fortunes were dramatically changed and they found themselves in dire need. His mother turned to religion for solace, while his father sank into a lingering depression. Ibsen's sense of loss and insecurity was given voice through the characters of his plays; his themes dealt with financial difficulty and the moral conflicts that arise in such circumstances. Ibsen's famous evaluation of wealth has been quoted countless times and continues to ring true: "Money may be the husk of many things, but not the kernel. It brings you food but not appetite; medicine but not health; acquaintances but not friends; servants but not faithfulness; days of joy but not peace and happiness" (quoted in The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life, Forbes Inc., 1968).

Ibsen's words echo the thoughts expressed by the ancient philosopher and author of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth (first reading). They are also like the wisdom of the Lucan Jesus, who aptly summed up the worth of wealth for human beings: "One's life does not consist of possessions" (Gospel). Qoheleth had grown weary of the futility of a life spent accumulating more things. He asked: In the end, what does it all amount to? His commentary on the human condition remains timeless in a world that continues to listen for the "ka-ching of the cash register as if it is a lovely symphony. Granted, money in our bank accounts makes us feel good and helps us to hold at bay the wolves of worry. By the same token, lack of money often tests us to the limit. Even the best of us can get weighed down with the frustration of dealing with difficult economic times.

But it is precisely during those times of financial stress that we most clearly discover the value we place on wealth. If we depend on money too heavily for our well-being, peace of mind and spiritual equilibrium, then we need a shift in focus. To that end, the scriptural authors continually redirect our spiritual energies and physical efforts toward the alternative existence suggested--and exemplified--in both the Jewish and Christian testaments.

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